Are you looking forward to taking a break this summer and setting off with your loved ones? While you are making your plans for how you are going to spend your time away, don’t forget to assess the potential carbon footprint of your vacation.
Determine if you can reduce your impact by making some small alterations to your travel plans. Consider where you will stay, how you will get there, and your activities while you are there.
Mode of travel
Depending on where you have decided to spend your summer vacation this year, you may have more than one transportation option. Evaluating which of these is the most sustainable option can be a challenge and may require a bit of time to calculate.
If you are going a long distance or leaving the country, purchasing an airline ticket is a no brainer. However, if the airline you choose to fly with offers carbon offset programs, make sure to add them to your cart before checking out.
If you go on a road trip, choose the vehicle with the best gas mileage. For example, if you have to choose between your Prius of your Dodge Ram pickup, load up the former and hit the road. If you only have one vehicle or are taking an RV, drive smarter to conserve fuel and reduce emissions.
Once you arrive at your destination, hang up the car keys. Jump on public transportation, walk, or rent a bike. An added bonus: you will see so much more if you aren’t paying attention to driving and navigating unknown roads. Currently, personal car and truck use accounts for one-fifth all United States carbon emissions. Transportation has had a devastating effect on the planet. You can help rather than contribute to the problem and reduce your impact by choosing the most sustainable option.
If you are staying in a hotel, motel, or resort, choose where to spend your money and your vacation by looking for those with sustainable practices. You can contact the place you are interested in staying to learn more about their commitment to eco-practices. Ask them if they have been evaluated by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
Hotels all over the world are recognizing the need to cater to eco-travelers and reduce their impact on the environment. For example:
- Alila Hotels & Resorts in Bali has initiated a “Zero Waste to Landfill” project in each of their hotels that now compost all their waste.
- Inkaterra, in Peru, invests in offset credits that invest in the protection of 42,000 acres of the surrounding forest around the resort.
- Eight lodges in Nicaragua and Costa Rica called the Cayuga Collection pride themselves on full transparency. They offer back-of-the-house sustainability tours in all of their location to anyone who is interested.
Not all hotels go through the certification process, especially smaller operations. By reaching out directly to the management of the location of your potential stay, you can learn quickly whether or not they align with your mission to have a sustainable stay. Look for accommodations that see the value in reducing waste — not simply recycling — and are making initiatives towards being more eco-friendly in their daily practices.
Choose your own adventure
When you travel to a new place, you want to experience everything it hasto offer. Unfortunately, the offerings to tourists are not always environmentally friendly. Many want to go for a ride on elephants when visiting Thailand or get a dune buggy when visiting the desert in Moab, Utah. In an effort to preserve these areas, choose your adventure wisely.
Many of the elephants used for those rides are mistreated and kept in captivity throughout their entire lives. Support the elephant conservation projects that exist in many areas to go and visit the majestic animals without causing them any harm. An alternative to renting a gas guzzling, carbon-emitting dune buggy could be to save the money and pack snacks before setting out on a hike.
On the other hand, you may just want to avoid tourist traps altogether. Areas frequently visited, such as national parks or landmarks such as the Great Wall of China, are literally being loved to death. The impact of thousands, sometimes millions of people, accessing a single site can leave it in ruins. This year in California, the poppy super bloom drew crowds so large they had to close off the areas to protect the flowers.
Travel the road less taken — you’ll likely find it more enjoyable anyway. You can take the opportunity to meet the locals. Hear firsthand about the hidden gems of the places you will visit this summer.
Being an eco-traveler doesn’t mean taking the fun out of traveling. It just requires you to travel in a new style. Be sure to pack along a reusable water bottle, turn down straws in your drinks, and make eco-conscious choices to leave the places you visit just as you found them.
About the author: Magnolia Potter is a muggle from the Pacific Northwest who writes from time to time and covers a variety of topics. When Magnolia’s not writing, you can find her curled up with a good book.